Running a Pet Friendly Restaurant
Restaurants today are changing, offering services and food items they may not have before in order to compete. Many established eateries that never paid much attention to take-out or delivery now devote major advertising, personnel, and resources to those endeavors. Nutritional concerns are also prompting most restaurants to add ingredient details to their menus. If customers want take-out and non-gluten meals, restaurant owners and managers will offer them or diners will drive further down the road for food.
Now comes another common consumer preference: pet-friendly restaurants. If you’re running one now and it’s going well, that’s great. If you’re thinking about it we’d like to share some experiences and advice we have garnered from restaurant clients through the years.
Why Pets? Forty-four percent of Americans own a dog and 29% own a cat. While cats don’t usually enjoy dining out, dogs love it and dog-lovers love being with their dogs. And 44% of Americans is a lot of hungry people you can’t ignore.
Obviously you need to have outdoor seating and appropriate weather you’re not really going to be able to get in the ballgame, but if you do you want to make sure the change won’t alienate regular customers. It’s a good idea to poll your devoted diners and make sure a significant number of them won’t leave you if they see dogs on the premise. If you have a Facebook page, run a poll and see what your fans say.
Check to make sure that your local health codes will allow you to admit dogs, and check with your insurance company. You’ll want to be well covered if a pug turns into a thug and bites someone.
The popular website Bring Fido highlights hotels, restaurants, and events that are pet-friendly and being listed there is great exposure for your business. Look at some of your competitors who offer pet-friendly areas for their diners and take notes on what works for them. Also make sure your employees are good with dogs.
One of our favorite restaurants in Fort Lauderdale is Coconuts, a pet friendly waterfront spot with great food and service. Their rules seem to be appropriate and reasonable:
- We only allow friendly and well behaved dogs.
- Your dog must be on a leash at all times.
- Dogs are not allowed on tables or chairs.
- Aggressive behavior from your pet will not be tolerated.
- We have bowls and paper products to help serve your pet.
- Please refrain from having your pet in the aisles.
A thoughtful, carefully planned strategy with properly enforced rules and guidelines for hygiene can be a great experience for diners and dogs alike.
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